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K-State Today

April 19, 2023

Building Operational Excellence for a Next-Generation Land-Grant University

Submitted by President Richard Linton and Provost Chuck Taber

Dear K-State Community,

Defining what it will take to achieve our vision as a leading next-generation land-grant university positively impacting society and transforming lives has been and continues to be a critical part of our work this semester. Our strategic planning task forces have been engaging in thought-provoking conversations centered around our six planning themes and our values of connection, courage, impact, learner-focused, people-centered and stewardship. Our brand task force is nearing the completion of its recommendations for developing a unified K-State brand strategy. We have also learned much over the past year through our strategic planning process and listening to internal and external stakeholders about our need to establish better operational efficiency and effectiveness across the university. The pursuit of operational excellence must become a priority if we are to truly set the standard for inspiring learning, creativity, discovery and engagement.

We know we must have a much stronger operational infrastructure in place if we are going to be successful in moving forward with a bold strategic plan. We can no longer wait to address some foundational areas that must be optimized as critical enablers of our vision. Today, we are announcing a new organizational framework that will:

  • Drive operational excellence for the institution.
  • Enable greater coordination among our administrative and operational units.
  • Strengthen day-to-day operational efficiency.
  • Streamline the President's Cabinet.

This restructuring work began last fall with the merger of our former chief operations officer and chief financial officer positions into the current vice president for administration and finance role held by Ethan Erickson. With the hiring of Marshall Stewart as our senior vice president for executive affairs, university engagement and partnerships, and chief of staff, we realigned our government relations and communications and marketing functions under his purview. 

We are now taking the next step in building more efficient and effective operations for our university. This includes the following changes focused on human resources, information technology, data analytics and business intelligence, and risk functions and services, which will go into effect by June 11 to be ready for the new fiscal year in July. 

  • Shifts the reporting of Human Capital Services from the president to the vice president for administration and finance to achieve operational synergy by aligning key HR functions that are currently disparate. The role of vice president for human capital services will be redefined as a chief human resources officer position. A national search for the chief human resources officer will be launched in the coming weeks.
  • Shifts the reporting of the Division of Information Technology from the president to the vice president for administration and finance, while continuing the dotted line reporting to the provost, to better enable strategic technology management and greater operational coordination across the university's administrative and academic technology services. The role of vice president for information technology will be redefined as a chief technology officer. A national search for the chief technology officer will be launched in the coming weeks.
  • Establishes a single data analytics function for the university by moving business intelligence and data analytics functions currently performed in the Division of Information Technology to the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment.
  • Creates an Office of Risk and Compliance under a new chief risk and safety officer role within the Office of the Vice President for Administration and Finance to manage the university's risk profile and lead the university's enterprise risk management program in coordination with other risk-related staff and functions across the university. Reporting units will include Environmental Health and Safety, Public Safety, and Risk and Compliance. This new structure will provide a clear focus, vision, coordination and increased capacity for these vital functions. A national search for the chief risk and safety officer will be launched in the coming weeks.
  • Realigns the university's internal audit function, moving administrative reporting from the vice president for administration and finance to the president to conform to best practices and further establish the independence and objectivity of the university's audit function.

You can see these changes outlined in this PDF chart. Please note this is a top-level view of the changes to be implemented over the next two months.

As we move into this new organizational framework, we will also be taking a close look at our university policies, processes and systems through the same lens of operational excellence. Change will not happen overnight, but know that we are committed to doing everything we can to create an environment where our faculty, staff and students can work as efficiently and effectively as possible — and where university operations are elevating our collective impact at every turn.

Organizational change can be exciting but difficult. We also recognize the very real human impact associated with organizational change as we think about our work and work functions differently. That is why we will be assembling teams that will be working closely with staff impacted by these changes to ensure a smooth and effective transition.

A small transition project team co-led by Shanna Legleiter, Division of Human Capital Services, and Lynn Carlin, Office of the Provost, is being formed to work with unit leaders and staff to complete the necessary staffing work needed to implement the reassignment of units and staff by early June. More details on the transition planning will be shared in the coming days.

We expect that as the university strategic plan is completed and our Emergent Method consulting team continues its organizational review, other changes may need to be implemented to elevate priorities within the plan. We must continue to be agile as an institution and open to change that will align us in new ways, build up our collective capacity, and ensure we are able to achieve excellence in all we do to achieve our vision as a next-generation land-grant university.

Kansas State University has never rested on its laurels. A hallmark of this institution has been our ability, willingness and courage to continuously adapt to meet the changing needs of the world we serve. We are deeply grateful to serve alongside colleagues who work tirelessly to make our university such a special place. We are on this path together as we look to the future.

Richard Linton

Chuck Taber
Provost and executive vice president 

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